Is it true that Indonesian local wisdom affects pregnant women’s food intake?

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Illustration by Feri Fenoria

UNAIR NEWS – Pregnancy is one of the most important moments in a woman’s life. This crucial period will affect the life style of the future mother, especially from the food she eats because it will affect the birth process and even the child.

Nutrition needed by pregnant women is higher than ordinary women, especially in terms of energy, protein, vitamin A, folate, calcium, iron, and iodine. Low nutrition of pregnant women can increase the risk of premature birth even to less optimal infant development.

The multicultural society with diverse cultures and beliefs of Indonesia is very likely to be a factor influencing the diet of pregnant women. Some areas even still adhere to a culture that limits and provides various food restrictions to pregnant women. In addition to culture and beliefs, social and economic conditions are also affecting factors for the food intake of pregnant women.

Rian Diana, SP., M.Si of Faculty of Public Health, Universitas Airlangga, was inspired to investigate this matter and find out the truth. This qualitative study method focuses on one ethnic group in Indonesia, Madurese. Conducted in Sumenep Regency, Rian involved 67 informants with four backgrounds: pregnant women, families of pregnant women, community leaders, and traditional birth attendants. The study was conducted in two ways, interviews with 40 informants and focus group discussions (FGD) with 27 other informants.

From the two methods conducted, Rian said the informants agreed that Madurese ethnicity influences the food intake of pregnant women. The diet consists of animal food, vegetables, fruit, and drinks. The locals, she added, consider eating squid, shrimp, pineapple, cabbage, and drinking sweet ice taboos. Food considered taboo is believed to trigger make the baby have the nature and physical form of animal they eat. For example, eating shrimp will make a difficult birth process due to the nature of shrimp that likes to hide.

In addition to shrimps, Rian added, the community, especially in the Sumenep area, believe that eggplants, cabbage, banana hearts, and chili are not good for pregnant women. Eggplants with smooth, thick, and hard skin are believed to cause the fetus to be wrapped in membranes and it complicates the birth process.

“June plum, pineapple, salak, durian, and rambutan are also considered as taboos for pregnant women because they are believed to cause miscarriage and heartburn,” she said.

In the end, Rian said, the recommended food based on this study were corn rice, boiled fish, milk fish, tilapia fish, tempeh-tofu, fruits, moringa leaves, and coconut water. Corn rice containing amino acids is considered better than rice or corn alone. The recommended animal food is also cheap and easy to find.

“Based on the results of this study, there are many food considered as taboo by Madurese pregnant women either for health or cultural reasons. Local wisdom regarding recommended food circulating in the community can be important information and support nutrition education for pregnant women in Madura,” stated Rian.

Author: Tsania Ysnaini Mawardi

Editor: Nuri Hermawan

Detailed information from this study can be seen in our article in the Journal of Ethnic Foods. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352618118301446

Diana R, Rachmayanti RD, Anwar F, Khomsan A, Chistianti DF, Kusuma R.  (2018). Food Taboos And Suggestions among Madurese Pregnant Women: A Qualitative Study. Journal of Ethnic Foods 5(2018): 246-253. DOI Number: 10.1016/j.jef.2018.10.006

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